“Climate change is real," Gaetz told ABC News in an interview. "It’s happening and it’s happening as a consequence of humans releasing hundreds of years’ worth of carbon within a span of decades.”
Gaetz, a 36-year-old lawmaker serving in his second term, is a rising force in the House GOP conference, not only due to his access to the president but also for his drive to tackle policy questions through an aggressive communications strategy.
Given the heightened attention on freshman Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, Gaetz is channeling that energy to present "a common-sense rebuttal" to the progressive pitch.
Occupying a high profile seat on the House Judiciary Committee where he’s garnered headlines for jousting with Democrats on the Russia investigation, Gaetz has watched Ocasio-Cortez, 29, streak to stardom and capture the attention of the media behind radical policy proposals such as the Green New Deal and an unparalleled ability to capitalize on a social media audience that dwarfs any other member of Congress – even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Never one to shy away from reporters, Gaetz envisions himself as the conservative counterweight to "AOC", as Ocasio-Cortez is widely known, regularly appearing on Fox News, but also accepting invitations for interviews from the full swath of credentialed media at the Capitol.
Wednesday, the self-proclaimed “leading Republican voice on climate solutions” offered his remedy to climate change, in the form of a Green Real Deal, which he describes as “realistic and viable options to combat the effects of climate change."
“We need a Green Real Deal in this country to attack climate change with realistic solutions,” Gaetz told ABC News in an interview at his office as he prepared to launch his own initiative. “The Green New Deal isn’t a plan. You can’t go do the Green New Deal, but Republicans can’t just criticize the ideas of Democrats without proposing an alternative.”
Gaetz says his plan seeks to create an international market place that's fair to American innovators, modernizes the U.S. electric grid, unlock federal lands "as an open canvas for renewable energy," and establish an "inclusive technology doctrine."
Gaetz says that he’s reached out to Ocasio-Cortez to talk to her about his approach, expressing optimism that the two members could find common ground on the issue.
“One of the great things about technological innovation is that we haven’t found out a way to make it partisan yet, and so we can actually bring Republicans and Democrats together to use innovative technologies to generate a cleaner environment and we don’t need excessive regulations to do it,” Geatz said. “One of the things that I think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez misses with the Green New Deal is that it’s not actionable. There is no mechanism by which we can make buildings and cows and airplanes and cars all illegal and still have a thriving economy, but we can become more efficient and more effective and we can stop other countries like China from stealing America’s innovations and then benefiting from them.”
A spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Gaetz’s proposal.
Gaetz’s district, which encompasses a large swath of the Gulf Coast in the Sunshine State’s panhandle, was lashed by the outer bands of Hurricane Michael, adding to the congressman’s concern for his constituency.
“I believe that my constituents will be impacted – they already have been really, by stronger hurricanes, by oscillations in climate and weather that impact farming and agriculture,” Gaetz said. “My suspicion is that we won’t be able to reverse these trends with regulation. America’s regulations aren’t copied. Our innovations are, and so rather than trying to regulate the American economy out of existence while polluters continue to engage in industrial activity overseas, why not try to excite the American innovation that has always been the envy of the world and use that to drive better environmental outcomes.”
Serving in the House minority, his proposal is unlikely to be considered for a vote, but he insists the proposal is not an oblique attempt to troll Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez.
“Absolutely not. These are serious proposals,” Gaetz insisted. “I would suggest that a Green Real Deal is something to be far more excited about than the Green New Deal because the Green New Deal will never happen. It does not have a legislative mechanism to occur. We’re looking at the bills that have been proposed by Republicans and Democrats and I think ultimately climate change is too big of a problem for one party to address.”